The Donald Trump administration insisted in a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C. on Thursday that the embattled President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina should be “impartially” and “independently” investigated to “ensure there is broad support, confidence, and a clear mandate among shareholders for the AfDB’s leadership.”
“The United States continues to value the AfDB and its efforts to promote development, reduce poverty, and address the current health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the African continent,” a U.S. Treasury spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.
“As Secretary Mnuchin underscored in his letter to the Chair of the Board of Governors, the United States strongly urges an impartial, independent investigation to ensure there is broad support, confidence, and a clear mandate among shareholders for the AfDB’s leadership.
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“Undertaking an independent evaluation of facts is not at odds with a presumption of innocence, and by promoting transparency and good governance, can only strengthen the AfDB’s capacity to deliver results to people across Africa,” the spokesperson added.
It was the first time the Trump administration had directly and publicly addressed the issue since U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter on May 22 to the African Development Bank Board of Governors, rejecting an internal investigation that cleared Adesina of allegations of favoritism and nepotism, and demanding a new independent investigation.
Bloomberg quoted two persons familiar with deliberations on the matter as confirming that a new probe will take place, after unidentified whistleblowers accused Adesina, 60, of handing contracts to acquaintances and appointing relatives to strategic positions.
The report quoted the two persons as saying “Africa’s largest multilateral lender decided on the inquiry after several governments backed U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s criticism of a bank-led examination into the allegations”.
The report said Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland are among countries that wrote to the AfDB to back the Mnuchin’s demands for professional outsiders to look into the allegations.
But in a statement made public on Thursday but dated May 27, the AFDB said a decision on its embattled President had not been reached, adding that it was however treating allegations against him seriously.
While the board said Adesina has not been asked to resign, it neither denied nor confirmed it had agreed to open a new probe against Adesina following pressures from the Trump administration.
It did not say whether Adesina would be asked to ‘step back’ if a new probe is opened as requested by the United States and other countries backing a second probe.
The Board of Governors Chairperson, Mrs. Niale Kaba, called on the public to allow due process to follow course, adding that all board members would be consulted before a decision is reached.
The proposed investigation comes three months before the bank’s annual meeting, at which Adesina is the sole candidate to extend his five-year term.
The AAA-rated lender’s 80 shareholders in October pledged to provide funding that will help to more than double its capital base to $208 billion.
In a statement on Wednesday, Adesina said he was innocent of the “trumped up allegations that unjustly seek to impugn my honor and integrity, as well as the reputation of the African Development Bank”
Adesina, a Nigerian citizen, said he was confident that “fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the bank, and the rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have not violated the Code of Ethics of this extraordinary institution”.
On Thursday, Nigeria began defending countryman Akinwumi, praising him for his achievements at the AFDB.
In a statement, the Nigerian Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, a.k.a “Mama loans”, defended Adesina in a letter to the Chairperson of the African Development Bank’s board of governors, Mrs. Kaba Niale.
She praised him for a job well done, and listed some of his achievements at the bank and in Africa.